Free Gift as a Service

A few months ago Jokin Aspaziu gave a gift to the Test Community. He added Spanish subtitles to an online video. is doing the same with a big set of mind maps. On a Saturday someone placed a question on a forum about a checklist for testing. I just referred to this big set of mind maps.

So here is my gift, which costed me more than 100 hours of work in my free time (and another 4 hours for blogging this). I am sharing this for free by giving multiple views on a software test exercise. After all it is my way to put my thoughts on the web.

The exercise
[Preparation teacher:
Explore the program extensively yourself before using the exercise.
Be sure, that there are enough smartphones (iPhones are not supported 🙁 ) and laptops plus wifi for the exercise.]

“You have to test a multiplication. You have 5 minutes to prepare. I am the PO or Product Owner. You can ask me any question.”

[My observations for this and similar exercises:
Two things can happen:

  1. Attendees are writing a lot of test cases.
  2. Attendees ask a lot of questions.

FAQ teacher
Q: why do we need to test a multiplication?
A: this is written in a new programming language.

Q: what can be multiplied?
A: all kind of numbers.

Q: are real numbers supported?
A: yes.

Some advices:

  • Give only information, when asked.
  • Act, if you know everything.
  • Tell a consistent story.]

[After the five minutes]
“What are you going to do?”
Or “What did you find out?”

[In case of silence or answers about test cases you can ask the attendees:

  • What is your mission?
  • What are you going to test?
  • What are the priorities in testing?
  • Etc.]

“You have 10 minutes to test the application. Here is the link to the application:”

[Additional information:
Give only information when asked.

Depending on the purpose of the context of the exercise you can encourage people to make notes.

In the past there were several reasons why I had to part from my smartphone:

  • It does not operate on an iPhone.
  • The battery of an attendee’s phone is low.]

[After 10 minutes of testing]
“Time is over. I want you to form pairs and debrief each other.”

[In case of uneven number of attendees let one attendee debrief to you.]

After the debriefing
“What were your experiences?”

[If people continue to talk about bugs, you can ask about exploring or notes. Did you accomplish your mission?

Other question:
“I was the PO. Why did you not ask me about [program]?”]

A workshop
The reader is of course advised to embed the exercise in a workshop. A good example is note taking during testing as subject. What must be noted during testing?

The first part could be focused on personal experiences and information from bug registration tools. An overhead projector can be used to show some notes as used in practice.
Let people voice their opinions and let them discuss the options.

In the second part theory could be presented like ET templates. ET is short for Exploratory Testing and not for a cute little stranded traveller looking for a roof and candy.

The last part is the exercise. As described above.

I was looking for a way to engage all attendees at the same time. It would be great, if they could do the exercise at their own pace. Not everyone has a laptop, but smartphones are quite common these days.

So I wanted to have a tool to make an app for mobile phones. The development environment and deployment of the application for workshop should be free and it should be able to support more than 20 attendees at the same time. Hum, these sentences sound like requirements.

I looked to different tools. There were a lot of cloud based tools, but they had restrictions on users or mobile platforms. Also had time consuming pitfalls like learning to code. I try to avoid proprietary code.

Then I noticed Twine. This tool had a similar interface of a CMS or Content Management System for web sites. It was free and simple to use. Twine is used to tell a story with branches. So I could add several happy endings. Or in the case of a bug a bad ending.
It can even be used for a RPG or Role Playing Game: please enter the room. Hit the baddies and take the loot. Cheers. Have another healing potion. Rinse & repeat.

Then the painful embedding of Twine html in my web site started. It looked bad. Some forums did not have proper information, so I had to place it outside this blog space.

But I had still more than enough Mb left over in my hosting space. So I cruised through my personal Command and Control Centre of my hosting provider and discovered that I could use subdomains. That sounded pretty cool. was born.

The next step was to move the file to the internet. I used ftp. Very primitive, but good enough.

Another speed limit was imposed by the awkward URL. That is a lot of typing. On Twitter I discovered, that is used frequently. It reduced the number of characters to be entered after the slash to a reasonable digit. I looked on the web site. It was free. What was the business model? Marketing could use the information of the click behaviour. Rather useful for keeping tracks of campaigns. Only this information would cost money.

A similar tool is the QR code. The user needs a QR reader or a photo to URL converter on his smartphone. On the Internet I found several QR code generators for free use.

The difficulty with bugs is, that they are small and sometimes hard to detect. With a high reproducibility bug reports I had to investigate a lot. The consequence was that programmers got a reproduction path with more than 10 steps. From me.

My basic idea was to make a calculator with buttons for digits and a lot more. I first tried a rough version to explore the possibilities; it worked and I was happy for a short time. A calculator lookalike would cost me lots of work, so I skipped it. So the prototype slowly evolved in the program of the featured exercise.

How would I be able to keep track of the right state of the program? A state transition diagram offered a simple way to design it. Then a new proof of concept or PoC was needed to verify, whether I could program it. Then I PoCed again and again.

My auto generated html file looked good on a desktop. There were some drawbacks on a mobile phone: small characters and difficult to manoeuvre. So I added some space to handle big finger tips.

In 2014 I was invited to give a 2 hour workshop for the Let’s Test conference. In the last years I had developed a strong preference for a work and learn experience. So I wanted to have some exercises, which could be done by the participants. The featured exercise is one of the three.

When I read the blog posts of previous conferences, I noticed a pattern. Surprisingly not every tester at this context driven test conference was extrovert. So the exercises should be done by introvert testers. At their own pace in their own Circle of Comfort.
Then I used all my humour to convince them to come to my workshop.

On the first day of the test conference I met a shy tester. She was looking for an interesting talk or workshop. I suppressed the urge to mention my workshop. This would not be consistent with my blog post and invitation for introvert testers.

In hindsight the exercise was out of place. With all the hours spent I did not consider to drop it. What were the bad signs?

  • I flipped through the slides, until I discovered that I had to do two exercises in succession. So there was no good mental hook for this exercise.
  • The exercise was linked to the message: little tricks lead to nice combinations. Were the actions of the attendees really tricks? On a high level of abstraction maybe.
  • I ran over my 45 minutes limit with 100 %. The exercise was one of the causes of this time expenditure.

Another observation was, that the QR code and did not accelerate the start of the actual testing.

Related posts
For the testing of this exercise I used different people.

My last upload before my workshop was for me another exercise in exploration. The actual exercise was not completely smooth.

Just for fun
Why is it not possible to explore outside the domain of software testing and make decent notes?
And make a smile on the face of the reader?
Just by breaking a bike lock.

Special mentions
The one, who inspired to write this blog post, is Matthew Middleton. He asked a puzzle for testing on a forum.

In order to get so many views on the exercise I used a variation of the Rule of Three. This rule basically states, that there are at least three questions to be asked. Why not views?

Have another one. Take a health potion mind map.

Mindmap of this blog post

Hit the baddies road and take the loot exercise. Cheers.

I want to thank Michael Bolton for experiencing his calculator exercise. Thanks for Carsten Feilberg for his workshop about Exploratory Testing at Tasting Let’s Test NL. Also thanks for Elisabeth Hendrickson for writing about her experiences with ET and Jean Paul Varwijk for putting ET templates on line ( And finally special thanks for Ray Oei for making me rethink testing.

I can make a test scenario with 100 % coverage of the shown tests and only good positives. Some might call it checking.

I can make a test scenario with more variations in state transitions, which leads to some good negatives. Some might call it testing.

Some people would love to automate tests.

Story delivery

“The judge will also take delivery in consideration: the way you tell it.”
A colleague about a game.

Do you understand?
“Do you know how they work at Toyota?” I asked a manager.
After a remarkable silence he responded carefully with:
“They keep their inventory low.” Then he continued to talk about it.
I nodded. “They also use Andon.”
I told him, that every employee in the company was entitled to stop the process in order to improve it. Then I spoke about the benefits.
“I feel comfortable to tell you, what I think.” I added.
“I like to hear that”, he responded.

As a tester I frequently have to tell people, that something needs to be fixed. It is hard.

Why do people fail to deliver a good story outside their own company? Specifically at test conferences.

Whom did you choose?
In this paragraph I try to answer the question:
How is a good speaker selected for a test conference?

If there are two candidates with the same experience, it might be prudent to choose the one with confidence.
He is introvert, so…
So the next time there is huge chance, that the same person is chosen. He has more experience and more confidence.

Another way to create a bias in speaker selection is to use a proposal. I agree with people, that a good summary can be a good indicator for a good talk. I also want to write, that a talk is spoken and not written.
Yes, it is OK to read this blog post.
No, it is NOK to read the slides aloud.

If there is a woman eager to speak, then another bias might pop up. Most testers are men, so…

I once did an audition for a talk using my smartphone. It was a bad idea: I constantly look at the screen like child, who awkwardly observed a mirror for the first time. If I got a little help from a professional camera team, I would increase my odds twentyfold.
(But I am Dutch, so  …)

Another coloured opinion.
He has a Chinese name, but most testers I know, are white and male. So…

I am totally aware, that this is an unbalanced view of conferences.  There are test conferences, which actively promote diversity on their web sites or have a proper woman man ratio for speakers.
Last year I, a yellow male speaker, was greeted by an African European test conference organiser.
Last year I saw a conference adjusting his acceptance process within weeks.
This year a major test conference will have two female keynote speakers after a decent increase of 2.

Things are changing.  For better. Diversity.

Did you consider this?
A week after the Dutch Student Championships I had karate fight in the dojo. My opponent was better than me. He beated me all the time. I was in the student team, he not. So the best are not always in the spotlights.

Last year I asked a good tester, whether he would go to a specific conference. He answered with: “The usual suspects.”
BTW it is not the movie and I did not have to translate this from Dutch to English.

At the beginning of this century I heard a story about a famous tester. He knew how to be accepted at major test events. But
“He is telling the same stuff over and over again.”

Let’s agree about a few facts:

  • There are females.
  • There are people, who use the systems you test.

Suppose you want to have some small talk with the end users. With men it looks simple: drink a pint of beer in a pub. With female end users?

Back to work. How do you know, when female users are not pleased with the application under test? For agile methodologies this is important. Let me substitute “agile” by “all”.
That sounds much better.

According to the independent Central Bureau for Statistics ( roughly the half of the Dutch population is female in 2015. So the chance, that the gender of a common Dutch computer program user is female, is 50%. Probably getting close to 95 % for an embroidery app. That’s my best guess.

As a Chinese I belong to a minority. Only 1 of 5 people on this very planet is Chinese. Even a small percentage of more than 1 billion people can be a nice niche market.(I also heard stories about companies having a hard time in China. Maybe I am also hampered with a confirmation bias. 🙁
I am Chinese, so…

In 2000 I had to switch planes in New York. At the airport the signs were written in 2 languages: English and Spanish.

Who can help me?
For a hesitant speaker it looks difficult to change this process. There are ways for reverse selection.

Conferences are trying to find new voices for their stages. On a regular basis I get kind requests to send in proposals. Sometimes they are personalised. Years ago I had submitted several proposals to conferences and they didn’t forget me. I don’t mind this.

There are even special speaker slots for beginning speakers. This spring I surprised my colleagues, that I was not accepted: I was too experienced.

In April one test conference teamed up with experienced female testers to increase the influx of speakers of the same gender. Twitter showed a nice increase of proposals of the targeted speaker population.

Speak Easy is one of my favourite things. It is focused on diversity. Redirecting attention to experienced female speakers. Supporting wannabe speakers with crafting abstracts and talks. Securing speaker slots for newbie speakers. The mentors have a lot of experience, which can benefit first time speakers and conferences as well.

Where can I get practice?
Did you ever speak with friends, family members, colleagues, peers, delegates of a conference, attendees of meetups, or members of Special Interest Groups about testing? Or with total strangers? That can be scary.

There is no straight stairway to practice delivery of a story, but there are ample opportunities.

Some tips

  • My father told me, that I should learn to tell a good joke. For me it was a way to start.
  • Use a diary.
  • Talk with your spouse or friend about the funniest thing that happened today. Preferably with complete transcriptions of the dialogue complemented with the right tone and faces.
  • Write spoken language next to written language.
  • Learn to ask (obnoxious) questions.
  • More and more conferences ask for twitter handles, blog posts, and other on line pieces of evidence proving, that candidate speakers can engage people. And touch them.

Related posts
Teaching = Learning
The need for new speakers
Safety first
Do you want to talk about it?
In Case of Emergency Press 1

PS the picture at the beginning of this post is nothing special. I could make it a cliff hanger for the next blog post. That is not a good idea.

Some readers would like to prod me for the special cut technique I used to split the apple. The brand of the knife or the way I hold the fruit in my hand. The next obvious step would be to practice the cut for the next hours and then taking bets from ignorant friends.
[I already hear the sound of glasses, which are filled with cool refreshing amber coloured fruit juice.]






You’re still there.
Are you ready to read further?

You’re sure?


Okay. Here you go.

I was just lucky to slice the apple in this way and mindful enough to take a picture.

I wrote you: it was not special.

Story delivery is not about the package. It is all about the content and the story teller’s view.